Call us ‘OWLS,’ not old!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2013

Now we are OWLS—Older Wiser Livelier Seniors. When I agreed to be the chairperson of older adult activities at church, someone suggested we come up with a suitable name for our group. Somehow, the tag “older adult,” did not appeal to most of us. Actually, I wondered if some people might not show up at our planned activities just because they didn’t want to be looked upon as old. During our Valentine Day covered dish, we chose our new title, OWLS.

I’ve noticed that the older I get, the younger the term “old” seems to mean. Remember when you were a child, you thought that your parents were old, really old. Probably you considered your grandparents just ancient. Then as I approached and moved into my fifties, I noticed that even those who were 60, 70 and 80 just didn’t seem as old to me as I once thought. I see it that way even more so today.

I remember puzzling over my mother calling a friend her age “that girl.” I understood as time passed. Childhood friends always stand out in my memory as the young girls and boys I knew during those days.

My aunt, who had been married 45 years, had a surprising experience at church one Sunday. She was in the hall of the educational building between Sunday School and the worship service when she saw a man coming down a flight of steps. “Why, that old man looks like J.,” she said to herself. Well, it turned out “that old man” really was J, her husband. She had never looked upon him as old until that telling moment.

Her story reminded me of when a young friend of mine referred to my daddy as an “old man.” I was flabbergasted when she said that, but Daddy was in his 70s then. He was an old man to her, but to me, he was just my daddy. In my eyes, Daddy wasn’t old.

Years ago when our family gathered around the table, my 4-year-old granddaughter turned to her great-grandmother and told her she’d better not eat a certain food because “Old people shouldn’t have that.” Surprised, my mother countered with, “Who told you I’m old?’ The rest of the family was as shocked as my mother because none of us considered her old. Her movements were quick and sure and she thought young.

That incident reminded Mother of one that had occurred about 20 years before. A 5-year-old who lived in the basement apartment of my parents’ home was chatting with them. She leaned back in her chair, scanned the living room, and addressed Mother: “When you get old–you’re old now–but when you get really old, I want you to leave this house to me.”

Just because our hair is grey and we might move a little slower, don’t tag us as old. Just think of us as OWLS—older, wiser, livelier seniors.